For the month of October 2016 we will be “Practicing Self-Compassion” in our mindful wellness online community. Click here to learn more about practicingÂ with usÂ (new topics every month).Â
Self-compassion has been defined by Kristin Neff in her pioneering research as simply turning compassion we might feel for others towards ourselves.
Compassion, when we extend it to others,Â is open-hearted recognition of the way another human beingÂ is suffering or struggling. We may feel a sense of care for the person, perhaps the wish to help, and often weÂ imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes.
Self-compassion is nothing more than turning such recognition inward.Â I am having a hard time,Â I am human and IÂ am worthy of my own care, kindness and understanding.Â
Western cultural values that emphasizeÂ independence, competition, performance and perfectionism have led many of us to hold criticalÂ beliefs about ourselves. When we encounter veryÂ common human experiences that are difficult or painful, we might naturally find our minds full ofÂ thoughts that range from self-judgingÂ toÂ downright nasty. Our habit of self-critique isÂ so longstanding and culturally reinforced thatÂ itÂ can beÂ difficult to imagine another way.
Increasingly, we are realizing the negative impacts of unchecked self-critique on wellbeing, both emotional and physical. Research on self-compassion is showing benefits in alleviating depression, anxiety, shame, negative body image and perfectionism, increasing motivation, increasing healthy behavior and increasing our ability to cope and bounce back from life’s challenges. Self-compassionÂ is a hot topic in research across health disciplines.
The practices ofÂ self-compassion help us first begin to acknowledge and accept our own struggles as human experiences worthy of notice. From there, we can begin to practice new ways of tending to ourselves in a number of ways, as Dr. Neff has described:
If youÂ are not in a habit of noticing your own pain or struggles with kindness and care, turning attention to them can bring them to the surface. With all practices of mindfulness and self-compassion, please always remember that emotionsÂ are transient (they come and go, intensify and relax) and that you can gently back out of any practice that brings discomfort beyond what feelsÂ beneficial to you. As always, seeking support is a good option if what you are discovering isÂ difficult to explore alone.
Dr. Neff has written a few other “tips for practice” that might be of interest to you as you begin.
Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer, two of the leading researchers and educators on this topic, have kindly created a wealth of online resources to help us develop practices of self-compassion.
â€¢ Establish an intention to begin to explore self-compassion.
â€¢ Consider a daily practice of self-compassion using meditations such as:
Self-compassion BreaksÂ (links to self-compassion.org)
Affectionate BreathingÂ (links to mindfulselfcompassion.org)
Many other self-compassion meditations and exercises can be found onÂ Dr. Neff’s website or Dr. Germer’s website. You canÂ choose to follow a guided meditationÂ anytime, and as you practice with regularity,Â you will find that you adapt and practice in your own ways at any time.
â€¢ Practice exploring self-compassion in everyday life by noticing moments of struggleÂ and wishing yourself well. Explore self-caring practices in everyday life and notice how it goes.
â€¢ Learn more, and consider finding a Mindful Self-Compassion program near you. These programs tend to be multi-day intensives or 8-week programs. Locally they are offered at the UNC Center for Integrative Medicine and some private practitioners. Kristin Neff and Christopher GermerÂ do a lot of training around theÂ U.S., and both of their websites contain training dates and locations.
If youâ€™d like to explore the power of online community to support your everyday wellbeing, joinÂ our free Mindful Wellness Practice Community on Facebook.
Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself Â (2011),Â Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and EmotionsÂ (2009),Â Christopher K. Germer, Ph.D.